It was just a regular day on the job when Border Patrol agent J.J. Carrell looked at his friend and co-worker Art Velez and suggested they try out for the hit CBS show “The Amazing Race.”
The duo have been fans of the Emmy Award-winning reality show since it premiered in Sept. 2001.
“We were doing our normal work details on the coast and J.J. looked at me and said we should try out for ‘The Amazing Race,’” said 43-year-old Temecula resident Velez. “He downloaded the application and we started the process.”
The show pits eleven teams of two people against each other as they travel around the world for 25 days, competing in different challenges. Each new location is kept secret until a challenge is completed.
From the time they sent in their application and video to the moment they were on a plane headed to their first location was six months.
Their career as Border Patrol agents primed them to be fierce competitors in the global contest filled with physical and mental challenges.
“We weren’t allowed to talk to our families for thirty days,” Velez explained. “That was one of the hardest parts of the whole experience.”
He said that their ability to speak two languages was one of the things that gave them a leg up on the competition.
“Being able to read maps, having an incredible sense of direction and staying calm are all by-products of our job as Border Patrol agents,” he added.
Velez said his favorite location was Tanzania.
“It was absolutely beautiful there. The animals and the beauty of the land was incredible.”
The Hawaiian sled challenge proved to be the hardest for Velez and Carrell.
In the end, they came in second place.
Once they were home and the show started airing they held viewing parties every week and donated proceeds to the Border Patrol Foundation, which helps families of fallen agents.
For the season finale, they held a party at Spelly’s Pub and Grille in Murrieta.
Velez’s wife works for the Temecula Valley Unified School District and was shocked like many members of the community by the tragic death of Vail Ranch Middle School Vice-Principal, Shelly Graesser.
“We decided to donate funds from the last party to Shelly’s fund. We are all so saddened by her passing.”
Now that the show is over, life is back to normal for Velez and his family.
Velez said: “If the opportunity ever presented itself to do something else because of ‘The Amazing Race,’ I would probably give it a shot,” he said. “I really love being a border patrol agent.”
Stephanie D. Schulte is a writer/photographer for SWRNN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org